As the company relocates, it expands its technology reach to all clients.
By: Debra Hazel
In a way, Orsid Realty Corp.’s upcoming move in June to the CitySpire Building will be a homecoming—the full-service residential management company had been based there prior to relocating to 1740 Broadway 20 years ago. But the Orsid that will return to 156 West 56th Street will be very different in many respects, even as it remains dedicated to providing top-notch service to its many audiences.
The move is just one aspect of how Orsid is preparing its team for the future, according to Neil B. Davidowitz, Orsid’s president, and the third-generation family member to run the company. In addition, Orsid has committed more than $3 million to the move and to upgrading technology and infrastructure that will revolutionize how it connects with its residents, boards, vendors and each other.
“We’ve been around for 64 years, and now we’re undergoing a transformative change, both physical and technological, that will bring us to new heights,” Davidowitz said. “We’re preparing for the next 64 years. This will dramatically improve how we interact with the communities we manage.”
The history is a storied one: Orsid’s co-founder, Albert Etingin, survived the Holocaust and settled in the United States after World War II. Albert Etingin entered the real estate business by creating immigrant-funded syndicates and buying rent-stabilized buildings in Manhattan and Queens, with the promise of a percent return to his investors. Maks Etingin, a trained electrical engineer, joined his father in 1969. While Albert Etingin continued to acquire new properties, Maks Etingin began and continued the process of converting many of the rental buildings into co-ops. In 1986, Neil, Maks Etingin’s son-in-law and a former Manhattan assistant district attorney, working for Robert M. Morgenthau, joined the Orsid family business. Maks Etingin, the patriarch now in his 90s, continues to be involved.
Orsid’s relocation will nearly double its space to 18,000 square feet, giving the firm more conference room space, training facilities and the ability to expand its staff. Currently numbering 85, Orsid serves 163 co-op, condominium and rental buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Riverdale. It was important to remain in the neighborhood, which is convenient to the bulk of Orsid’s buildings and employees, Davidowitz explained. Additionally, CitySpire’s large footprint provides the ideal space to accommodate the firm’s continued and projected growth.
“We’ve been within a three-block radius for 64 years,” Davidowitz continued. “This is a long-term investment, and keeps us in a great centrally located hub.”
The other great move is into cyberspace. Orsid soon will launch an unprecedented integrated platform that will serve its many constituencies by communications and streamlining efficiencies in the age of “instant information.” Orsid’s culture is very much people-oriented, Davidowitz said, with senior executives being accessible to all Orsid managed communities. The goal behind all of the investments is to maintain Orsid’s historic culture, while adapting it to an evolving clientele.
“We realize our clients’ needs and expectations are changing. In order to adapt to those expectations, we are making a tremendous investment that will improve our capability, with a specific focus on technology. Our clients would like everything to be accessible from their mobile devices,” said Andre Kaplan, CFO. “In order to accommodate that we are investing in our future and building the infrastructure that will make it all possible”
Orsid began developing the platform in late 2018, and it will roll out in phases over a 12-month period. Services will be added gradually, but will be available to all of Orsid’s buildings once they are launched.
To a certain degree, the platform is a collaboration of existing systems that have evolved organically through industry demand, that are being combined into a single, seamless interface. Kaplan and his team conducted an exhaustive series of focus groups with Orsid’s staff to determine what tools are necessary and to glean the valuable feedback Orsid employees have received from residents’ and board members. They are currently working with consultants to create a website that will allow various audiences to securely access the information and service they need.
“Our strength has always been communications, and the way people handle information is evolving,” said Robbie Janowitz, operations director. “We’re maintaining who we are, a hands-on, service-oriented firm.”
Residents will have a secure login allowing them to place maintenance requests, make payments and communicate with building staff about such things as guest notifications and package deliveries, among other services. The system will be capable of making automated calls to notify residents of urgent or unexpected circumstances such as temporary service interruptions.
Separately, board members will have secure access to customizable Excel-based financial reports and other critical data, improving their ability to receive timely information.
“They will be able to monitor the operations of the building, basically live, through our platform,” Kaplan noted.
An internal platform will let Orsid staff communicate quickly and effectively. Each account executive has been issued a Microsoft Surface tablet as part of the transition, which allows them to interact with each other and with the residents with real time access to information that would otherwise be stored on servers and only accessible while in the office. The days of following up for information the day after a board meeting will disappear—Orsid’s team will have the requested data instantaneously.
“This will equip our staff with greater capability and improve the client experience,” Janowitz said. “Our staff will be much more efficient all to the benefit of the clients.”
Creating the new website has proven to be exceptionally complex, he continued, with other aspects of the company requiring simultaneous upgrades to ensure compatibility across platforms. Cybersecurity is a major consideration—logins will require state-of-the-art authentication. All modern and appropriate means and methods will be implemented to protect the data and the infrastructure.
The team recognizes that the updated technology may not be well received by all residents. While the platform will provide residents a single interface to take care of most of their communication needs, paper invoices, service requests and more will still be available for those who prefer a lower-tech method of communication—and a resident can always pick up the phone to speak with one of our professionals.
“The great challenge is creating the all-in-one for everybody,” Janowitz said. “Our goal is not to take paper away from those people who prefer it. Rather, it is to enhance the experience that our clients and managed communities have with us. We are not changing who we are. We are becoming more of what our clients’ want us to be as we look forward to the next generation of Orsid Realty.”